If someone were ever to construct a “Mount Rushmore” sculpture of death metal, one of the bands I would nominate to be carved into the side of the mountain would be Entombed. Active since 1989, Entombed (now known as Entombed A.D.) quickly became pioneers in Scandinavian death metal with their three masterpiece albums released in the 1990’s, “Left Hand Path,” “Clandestine,” and “Wolverine Blues.”
Now, it’s been seven long years since the Swedish trailblazers released their last album, “Serpent Saints – The Ten Amendments,” and since then things have changed. I’ll share what I know of the story if you’re not up to speed, but I’m warning you, there might be a test later. “Back to the Front” was recorded and intended to be released in the fall of 2013 by the four members of the most recent lineup, L.G. Petrov (vocals), Olle Dahlstedt (drums), Nico Elgstrand (guitar) and Victor Brandt (bass). Original member Alex Hellid chose not to participate in the making of the album, and an “Entombed” name dispute caused a delay in the album’s release. In January it was publicized that “Back to the Front” would be released under a new band name, “Entombed A.D.” And now the name “Entombed” is owned by all four original members, Petrov, Hellid, Ulf Cederlund and Nicke Andersson.
Whew! With all that out of the way now, how does “Back to the Front” sound? I was excited when I heard the first single, ‘Bedlam Attack,’ because it features the signature Entombed scorching buzz saw guitar sound from Nico Elgstrand and an outstanding Olle Dahlstedt drum breakdown. Their next single, ‘Vulture and the Traitor,’ is my favorite track on the album. It has the thick buzz saw chugging riffs and Victor Brandt‘s superb deep bass line, but halfway through, the tempo heavily trudges through the dense sludge until it is saved by the power of a killer guitar solo. Other standout tracks are the catchy, head snapping pace of ‘Waiting for Death,’ and ‘The Underminer,’ Other than those four songs, I was impressed by Petrov‘s vocals. His pained growls still make the hair on my arm stand straight up.
The remaining tracks on “Back to the Front” don’t have the same bite as the previously mentioned songs. They all have flashes of brilliance, and satisfying guitar solos lace some songs such as ‘Pandemic Rage,’ ‘Second to None,’ and ‘Eternal Woe.’ And even though it was brief, I loved how the band shared the spotlight with the bass guitar in the intro to ‘Bait and Bleed.’ But overall, many of the songs came across as uninspired, flat album filler and were not very fun to listen to. Sadly, there is one metal music crime I cannot forgive. While listening to the album on shuffle, I came across ‘Kill to Live’ and ‘Soldier of No Fortune,’ and proceeded to fall asleep from boredom due to a lack of interest not once, but twice. This has never happened to me while listening to a death metal album.
All in all, Entombed has shown me that they still posses the ability to deliver the goods, just not consistently from one song to the next. I have been and always will be an Entombed fan no matter what, but “Back to the Front” was a disappointment for me. I really hope their next album, no matter when it’s released or who performs on it, brings back the raw energy and the rage that made me so enthusiastic for the band in the first place.